Politics

Canadian military monument program needs U.S. approval: document

The high-tech armour on Canada's LAV III military vehicles has stalled a plan to create memorials to Canadian soldiers. The U.S. must first give permission for Canada to distribute up to 250 of the vehicles as monuments, because the armour is considered a "controlled technology" that must be specially safeguarded.

Plan to honour Canada's Afghan mission stalled as green light sought from State Department

LAV III in action in Afghanistan.

A federally sponsored program to create 250 war memorials in communities across Canada honouring the sacrifices of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan needs the permission of the United States government to proceed.

CBC News has learned that the light armoured vehicle to be used for each proposed memorial is clad in special armour that the United States government considers controlled military technology.

And so the plan to distribute the LAV III vehicles comes with strict conditions, including formal permission from Washington and an inventory-and-security plan to ensure none of the vehicles ever goes astray.

The Canadian military has already asked the U.S. State Department for permission to disperse used LAV IIIs as memorials but the approval process takes months — and so far there's been no answer.

"The regulatory hurdles to be overcome are significant, and … DND [the Department of National Defence] may inadvertently incur costs not initially envisaged," says an Aug. 28 briefing note for then-defence minister Rob Nicholson, obtained under the Access to Information Act.

The project was announced Nov. 5 with fanfare at the Canadian War Museum during an event attended by at least two cabinet ministers, Rona Ambrose and Peter MacKay.

The plan is to recycle up to 250 discarded LAV lll hulls and turrets from LAV IIIs undergoing $1 billion in upgrades at General Dynamics Land System-Canada, in London, Ont., in a contract awarded in 2012. The hulls and turrets are mere shells, stripped of their main components.

Shell vehicle mounted

The Canada Company, a charity established to help veterans, is spearheading the project and has invited communities across the country to apply for monuments. The hulls and turrets are to be welded back together, and the shell vehicle mounted in a standard configuration, drawing on student welders from Fanshawe College.

Canada Company says communities must pay the costs of transporting the memorials from London, Ont., securing a site and installation, which the group says could cost between $5,000 and $20,000.

Only one memorial LAV III exists so far, a prototype built by General Dynamics and owned by the federal government. The rest are to be reassembled at Militex Coatings of London, Ont., with Canada Company paying the cost through donations.

No deliveries of any monuments will be authorized until a process has been finalized- Shawn Deane, Canada Company spokesman

Canada Company said they expected first deliveries to communities in early 2015, but so far no communities have been picked, though about three dozen have applied even as the military awaits the green light from Washington.

Tom Jenkins, chairman of the software firm OpenText and a main proponent of the memorial program, initially estimated the cost of converting the LAV III shell parts to monuments at $15,000 each, though the military briefing note says it could be closer to $100,000.

The Canadian military may also have to bear some of the costs of maintaining an inventory and control of the technology, as Canada Company says it will not take on that responsibility.

"Canada Company's support of this project does not require our registration with the Controlled Goods program," Shawn Deane, project manager for the program, said in an email.

40,000 vets of Afghan war

"We know that details around Controlled Goods are being worked through by DND and General Dynamics Land System–Canada … and that no deliveries of any monuments will be authorized until a process has been finalized."

National Defence spokeswoman Jane Houser told CBC News the department "has not incurred any financial cost associated with the LAV III monument program."

"We have not yet obtained authority from the U.S. Department of State to transfer the LAV III remnants, but the paperwork has been submitted," she said. Houser declined to indicate why the armour is considered controlled technology.

The memorials will chiefly honour the estimated 40,000 Canadian soldiers who served in Afghanistan over 13 years of combat. Many relied on LAV IIIs for protection and transport.

The Canada Company reported $1.3 million in revenues in 2013, the last year for which the Canada Revenue Agency has posted numbers, with about half in receipted charitable donations.

Follow @DeanBeeby on Twitter

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